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Clockwise from top: Mengda Tianchi Lake; deep-fried red dates; dumplings stuffed with preserved fruits; Camel Spring next to Jiezi Mosque; steamed buns with minced carrot and mutton stuffing; Eight-Treasure Tea. [Photos by Xu Lin/China Daily and Shen Jie/For China Daily]
The Xunhua Salar autonomous county offers you a unique experience of local customs, traditions and lifestyle in an unhurried manner.
If you want sample delicious food, an exotic culture and enjoy picturesque scenery in a less-crowded destination, the Xunhua Salar autonomous county is the place to visit.
Inhabited by a China's Salar ethnic group, the county is about two hours' drive from Xining, the capital of Qinghai province.
Your experience starts with Babao Tea, which means Eight-Treasure Tea in Chinese, from a covered teacup. The eight treasures include Chinese wolfberries, raisins, red dates and green tea. Use less crystal rock sugar if you don't like your tea too sweet.
There are also a range of appetizers on offer - from nuts and preserved fruits to fried snacks.
The locals, however, prefer steamed buns with minced carrot and mutton stuffing and deep-fried dough cake dipped in sugar. Red dates are also battered and deepfried in mutton fat and dumplings are stuffed with preserved fruits.
If you want something different, you can also dip boiled mutton into a plate of local chili powder.
The county's red chillies are fragrant, but not very spicy.
Another popular main dish is hotpot, with beef, mutton, vegetables and noodles in a soup.
After a hearty meal, you can stroll along the street to buy yogurt made from yak's milk.
China's mobile payment favorites like WeChat and Alipay work well here.